The Halle You Haven’t Heard
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The Halle You Haven't Heard

The Aries sun, Gemini rising, Capricorn moon entertainer isn’t who you think she is— and she’s not trying to be.

One thing about the human experience that’s always predictable is the use of labels. This may prove problematic for those in the public eye: Whether they’re adopting personas imposed by others or shrugging them off, there’s no denying that celebrities are the most impacted by the broad brush of perception.

The way social media tells it, Halle Bailey is the demure, innocent, conservative half of the R&B sister act Chloe x Halle. But after an hour-long chat with the singer and actress—who’s been labeled everything from passive to straight-edge—it’s clear that most preconceived notions about her are unfounded. Pleasant and mellow, with a tone and tenor that leave you feeling as if you’re in a guided-meditation class, the 22-year-old has an undeniably gentle spirit. But there’s far more to Halle than just being the “sweet sister.”

The Halle You Haven’t Heard

First, she’s fiercely loyal—the type of loyal that screams, “If you’ve got a problem with so-and-so, then we’ve got a problem.” “I’m a fire sign,” she explains. “I’m a protector of my family. If I love you and somebody crosses you, it’s over. That’s been my stance since I was young.” Second, she’s not afraid to say exactly how she feels. She’s also about her business—and, contrary to popular belief, she’s not shying away from being sexy.

It might be a case of Halle’s art imitating life, even as she and her sister now forge individual paths as entertainers. It’s a symmetry that continues through her portrayal of Nettie in the recently wrapped musical reboot of The Color Purple, scheduled to be released in 2023. “She’s so much like me, because she has that fire inside of her,” Halle says of the character. “When it comes to defending her sister—as the little sister, I kind of connected my own experiences for the role.”

The Halle You Haven’t Heard

The airtight bond we see between Chlöe and Halle developed later than most would expect. “We actually ended up getting really close when I was in fifth grade and she was in seventh,” Halle reveals, crediting their transition to homeschooling. After releasing two critically acclaimed albums together—2018’s The Kids are Alright and 2020’s Ungodly Hour, which earned the pair a total of five Grammy nominations—they’re now shaping their identities as solo artists.

“I was so nervous to do something on my own,” Halle admits of the decision to star in the upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. “I was like, I don’t know if I can do it without her. I’m so used to her being there and giving me that final push.” Engrossed in the conversation, Halle lets slip that new solo music is on the horizon for her as well. “Seeing how Chlöe’s navigated stepping out on her own is so inspiring to me,” she says. “I’m so grateful for that example.”

Big sis isn’t the only source of inspiration for Halle these days. A romance with rapper and YouTube star DDG (also known as Pontiac- MadeDDG) has been brewing. “I’ve been a fan of his for years,” she says. “I grew up being on You- Tube and would always see the young Black creators and was constantly inspired by them. He was one of them.”

The Halle You Haven’t Heard

She first noticed him back in 2015, but as the multihyphenate’s career exploded, the connection faded. “I completely forgot about him,” Halle says with a laugh. “But then I saw that he was dropping music, and I really gravitated toward this one song. Coincidentally he messaged me—and the rest is history.”

When she’s asked if she’s in love, there’s no hesitation—and you can tell that she’s blushing just by the way the pitch rises in her already high-octave voice: “Yes. For sure I am.”

The pair frequent each other’s social media feeds and recently made their first official red-carpet debut at the 2022 BET Awards. But the overprotective nature of Halle’s fans has spawned critiques of the young couple. “People have seen me grow up, so of course they might have something to say about how I feel or what I do with my life,” she says. “I just choose not to read it. I ignore the naysayers and follow my own heart and intuition.”

The Halle You Haven’t Heard

The opinions of her family are golden, however—especially those of her mother and grandmother, whose advice on having independence outside of a man has stuck with her. “‘Make sure you never interrupt your work ethic’” is a lesson she says she’s learned from them. “My business and my work life are the priority, because at the end of the day I want my family and my future children to have a beautiful life. Love is great, and love feels wonderful—but never neglect your work.”

To be clear, working for the rest of her life is not Halle’s end goal. “I want to have like 10 babies and go live on a farm and have a great house,” she says. “I wanna grow my own food and have an oasis away from the world, where my family and I go and have a great time.” But before that, she wants Grammys, Oscars and everything in between. “My first love is music,” she says, when asked if she prefers acting or singing. “That’s where I feel my most free—but it’s really been a beautiful experience with acting as well.”

The Halle You Haven’t Heard

Halle’s headstrong nature extends to her style choices, which have included everything from the pink sequined Rodarte mini she wore at the Met Gala to posing in Burberry for the ’gram. “My personal style is a little bit of all the things that I love,” she explains. “That’s from boho to super elevated and chic. It’s whatever I feel good in.”

Making her feel extra good these days is embracing what she calls her “woman body”—a rite of passage for Black girls as they settle into their early twenties. “Finally, I’m 22 years old, and some of the weight is sticking, and I’m happy about it,” she says gleefully. “Chlöe has the booty, and I’m getting some cleavage.”

This article excerpt appears in the September/October issue of ESSENCE on newsstands September 6.

Article continues after video.

Photographed by: Eric Johnson
Styled by: Corey Stokes 
Hair by: Fesa Nu using “Loc it” & “Bomb Hair Mist” by Akhir K Essentials
Halle Makeup by: Christiana Cassell
Chloe Makeup by: David Velasquez
Nails by: Tiffany Everett
Set Designer: Sinclaire Reddings
Set Design Assistants: Jeffery Taylor
Photography Assistant: Austic Price
Lighting Technician: Dara Dryer
Photography Producer: Monika Martinez
Styling Assistants: El Lewis and Luigi
Tailor: Fhonia Ellis
Production: Perris Cavalier and Taylor Brown at The Morrison Group; Bré Kelly, Nnenna Anyaugo, and Bailey Nolfe
Shot at: DWH Studio With Special Thanks to The Candler Hotel
Videography: Winston Saddler